Estate Planning

Make planning your estate a priority.

Estate planning is about the people you love, the people you trust, and the people who are counting on you. A personalized estate plan allows you to take care of your family and establish your legacy.

In addition to distributing your assets according to your specific wishes when you pass away, an estate plan provides legal authority for others to take care of you, your children, and your finances should you become incapable of managing your own affairs, even if only temporarily.

Although every estate plan we create is completely customized for you and your loved ones, we help you decide which type of our packages below will best suit your needs:


  • Will-Based Plans: A will-based plan is designed for couples or individuals without children or dependents and who have limited assets.
  • Trust-Based Plans:  A trust-based plan is perfect for families with children. This is the best choice for anyone who has dependents in their care.
  • Trusts for Children: Minor children do not have the legal capacity to inherit. With a personalized trust, parents decide when their children receive their inheritance – at specified ages, for specified reasons, and with specified limitations.

Learn More to Find the Right Plan for You

Last Will and Testament

A last will and testament is crucial for everyone. For parents, you can name a potential guardian for your children, just in case the unexpected happens.

Wills also enable you to lay out exactly how your assets will be distributed after death.

Without a will, the state decides without your input.


Trusts help you specify exactly when and how others will inherit assets.

Trusts are crucial to plan for minor children or grown kids with a potential divorce looming or who struggle with an addiction.

They can also help your loved ones avoid probate when you pass away.

Special Needs Trusts

Special needs trusts manage resources to benefit individuals with disabilities, ensuring the financial support they need without disqualifying them from essential government assistance programs.

Programs like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income require the person to have a limited income.

These trusts help maintain a quality of life by funding additional needs not covered by public benefits, ensuring both care and comfort for the beneficiary.

Powers of Attorney

Powers of attorney are legal documents authorizing another person to act on your behalf in financial, legal, or health-related matters.

They ensure that trusted individuals can make decisions for you if you become unable to make them yourself.

POAs provide a means to manage your affairs seamlessly, safeguarding your interests and ensuring that your choices are respected, regardless of your ability to communicate them personally.

At Vail Gardner Law, a woman-owned law firm, we provide estate planning for families and individuals who want to protect their interests and their family’s future. Set up an estate planning consultation with us in Durham, North Carolina by contacting us today.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. It should not be taken as legal advice for any situation. By viewing this website, no attorney-client relationship is established.


What assets should I include in my estate plan?

In North Carolina, your estate plan should include a comprehensive inventory of all your assets to ensure a thorough and effective management and distribution upon your death.

This includes real property (like your home and other land or buildings you own), personal property (such as cars, jewelry, and furniture), financial accounts (checking and savings accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts), life insurance policies, and any business interests you may hold.

Digital assets, such as social media accounts, digital currencies, and online banking or investment accounts, are also increasingly important to consider in your estate plan.

Decide how each asset should be handled, who should inherit it, and the method of transfer.

Some assets, like those owned jointly or with designated beneficiaries (such as life insurance policies or retirement accounts), pass outside of the will and are not subject to probate. It’s crucial to ensure that your estate planning documents, such as your will, trusts, and beneficiary designations, are aligned and updated to reflect your current wishes and life circumstances.

Consulting with an estate planning attorney in North Carolina can help ensure that your estate plan is comprehensive, up-to-date, and accurately reflects your intentions for all your assets.

How do I choose the right guardian for children in my estate plan?

In North Carolina, choosing the right guardian for your children within your estate plan involves several considerations. It’s essential to select someone who shares your values, has the ability to care for your children physically and emotionally, and is financially responsible.

This decision is formalized in your will, where you can name your preferred guardian for minor children in the event of your and the other parent’s death or incapacity.

North Carolina law requires the court to consider your nomination seriously, but the court will ultimately make a decision based on the best interests of the children.

It’s advisable to discuss your decision with the chosen guardian beforehand to ensure they are willing and able to take on the responsibility. 

Regularly reviewing and updating this designation is also crucial, as circumstances and relationships can change over time.

Set up your free consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney at Vail Gardner Law today. We can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation, helping ensure your children are cared for according to your wishes.

How often should I review or update my estate plan?

In North Carolina, it’s advisable to regularly review and update your estate plan to reflect any changes in your personal circumstances, financial situation, or changes in the law.

Life events such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children or grandchildren, the death of a beneficiary or executor, significant changes in financial status, or moving to a new state can all necessitate updates to your estate plan.

Additionally, changes in tax laws or other legislation affecting estates and trusts might also prompt a review of your estate planning documents.

As a general guideline, reviewing your estate plan every three to five years is a good practice. However, it’s important to reassess your estate plan sooner if you experience any major life changes.

Updating your estate plan ensures that your wishes are accurately reflected and can prevent potential conflicts or confusion among your heirs after your passing.

Working with an estate planning attorney in North Carolina can help you navigate the process of reviewing and updating your estate plan.

An experienced estate planning attorney at Vail Gardner Law can provide valuable advice on how to adjust your estate plan to account for new developments in your life and changes in the law, ensuring that your estate planning objectives are met and your loved ones are protected according to your current wishes. 

We offer a free consultation along with times that work with your schedule, including evenings and weekends.


What's the best way to manage digital assets in an estate plan?

In North Carolina, managing digital assets in an estate plan has become increasingly important as our lives and assets move more into the digital realm. Digital assets include social media accounts, emails, digital photos, online banking, investment accounts, and even cryptocurrency.

To effectively manage these in your estate plan, you should first make a comprehensive inventory of all your digital assets, including how to access them (e.g., passwords, security questions).

North Carolina has adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA),  which allows you to give legal authority to a designated person (such as an executor or trustee) to manage your digital assets upon your incapacity or death. This can be done through traditional estate planning documents like wills, trusts, or powers of attorney.

You’ll need to specify which digital assets your fiduciary can access and what they are authorized to do with them.

It’s crucial to provide clear instructions on how you want your digital assets to be handled, whether certain accounts should be deleted, maintained, or transferred to heirs.

Because digital assets can be both financially valuable and sentimentally significant, incorporating them into your estate plan ensures they are not overlooked and are managed according to your wishes.

Consulting with an estate planning attorney at Vail Gardner Law can ensure the best practices for digital assets in North Carolina. We can help you navigate the complexities of including these assets in your estate plan, ensuring your digital legacy is preserved and protected.

How can I use my estate plan to support charitable causes?

In North Carolina, incorporating charitable giving into your estate plan can be accomplished through various methods, allowing you to support causes close to your heart even after you’ve passed.

One common approach is through bequests made in your will, where you can specify a fixed amount of money or a percentage of your estate to go to a chosen charity.

Another option is establishing a charitable trust, such as a Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT) or a Charitable Lead Trust (CLT), which can provide tax benefits to your estate and income to you or your heirs before eventually benefiting the charity.

Additionally, designating a charity as a beneficiary of certain assets, like retirement accounts or life insurance policies, is a straightforward way to include charitable giving in your estate planning. This not only supports your philanthropic goals but can also serve as an effective tool for estate tax planning, potentially reducing the tax burden on your estate and heirs.

It’s important to work with an estate planning attorney to ensure that your charitable contributions are structured effectively to meet both your philanthropic and financial objectives. 

At Vail Gardner Law, we can help you navigate the specific rules and opportunities under North Carolina law to maximize the impact of your charitable giving. Set up your free consultation today. 

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For Mail only: 732 9th Street, #621,
Durham, NC 27705
Telephone: (919) 246-6676

Service Area

NC, Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Cary, Morrisville, Hillsborough, Research Triangle Park